Yesterday, the government delivered a roadmap for safeguarding the UK’s digital future in the form of the Digital Britain report. But amid all the technical jargon and thundering editorials from industry experts, it’s easy to get a bit lost. Fear not. Here's our guide to the top ten changes the report will bring, wherein we’ll cut through the Babel-style confusion to explain what the provisions mean to you.
1) 50p tax. To the widespread surprise of most of the broadband industry, a levy was introduced which is payable by every household with a standard (ADSL) broadband connection. The revenue is earmarked for constructing a next-generation broadband network in areas that might otherwise miss out.
The tax has been justified on the grounds that recent years have seen a dramatic fall in the cost of broadband and home telephony.
What it means for you: The tax will add £6 per year to your phone bill. That equates to a two per cent rise in the average bill of £285.
If you live in the areas of Britain where it is not viable for broadband providers to build a next-generation network, the tax will help pave the way for you to get faster broadband.
2) 2Mb Broadband for All. As the name suggests, this commits the government to ensuring that all households in the UK have a connection of this speed by 2012.
What this means for you: This largely depends on the area where you live. In many regions, average connection speeds will be far in excess of this figure already. However, in areas where broadband is currently unavailable, the pledge is a guarantee that broadband of an acceptable speed will be on offer.
3) File sharing crackdown. In a bid to cut online piracy by 70 per cent, broadband providers are to be compelled by Ofcom to “notify alleged infringers of rights… that their conduct is unlawful”. ISPs will also now be responsible for keeping details of persistent illegal downloaders, so that copyright holders can take legal action if required.
What this means to you: On paper, it looks as though broadband providers will make it much harder for illegal downloading to take place. But it’s notable that tougher measures, such as speed humps and banning orders, are absent. Instead you can expect little more than a letter up to a certain level of use and heavyweight legal action if you can’t leave file sharing sites alone.
Meanwhile, until such time as we know what constitutes a persistent offender, it’s hard to know how many people stand to be affected.
4) The Get Safe Online security awareness programme will be promoted. Measures for how the security lessons this website provides might be transmitted more effictively to the public were thin on the ground. But the government appears to agree that more needs to be done to get the message out.
What it means to you: The lack of concrete detail suggests that workshops and classes may be too much to hope for and that instead the campaign will remain largely an online concern.
5) Digital Life Skills. To ensure that the UK populace is equipped with the technological skills to take advantage of the economic and career opportunities the digital age offers, a learning programme will be set up dubbed Digital Life Skills Entitlement.
What this means for you: All adults will be entitled to nine hours of tuition to cover a core set of online learning modules. If you feel you’re in need of some assistance, you’ll be able to approach any provider to get face to face help. These include UK online centres, adult and community learning Providers, FE College, learndirect outlets and Unionlearn centres.